Needle Exchange was first introduced in England in 1985 in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is a facility where injecting drug users can obtain sterile injecting equipment and also dispose of used needles in a responsible, hygienic and safe manner.
Needle Exchange is a harm reduction method that is offered by a large number of pharmacies in Birmingham.
As well as providing clean needles, a needle exchange scheme also offers the opportunity for users to learn about safe injecting practises, equipment disposal, access into treatment services and education on drug use in general. It is a chance for substance users who are not currently in treatment to engage with someone who can provide advice and information.
Birmingham Public Health sees it as important to maintain the efforts to educate injecting drug users as well as improve the services that continue to prevent HIV infections. We currently have an extensive network of almost 100 pharmacy-based and 6 specialist needle exchanges across Birmingham. For those people who continue to inject, the needle exchanges provide a safe and confidential route for disposal of used works and provision of clean equipment. These services are having a significant impact in reducing the risk of spreading blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis and HIV. These services are also available to steroid users.
As well as safer injecting information, advice and general healthcare assessments, specialist needle exchange programmes are available to provide access to confidential Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV testing along with Hepatitis B vaccination. They also offer referral to prescribing and other health services including Hepatitis C and HIV treatment together with wound care advice and treatment.